Muslims and Police, What?

If you’ve been living under a rock (or aren’t American, though I suspect this is getting a lot of international attention) you might not know that America’s first Orange President has followed through on one of his more odious campaign promises by ordering a de facto partial ban on Muslim immigrants.

Partial because it applies only to certain countries. And how many of the 9-11 hijackers came for those countries? None…zero. Of course, some people noticed something curious about the Muslim countries excluded from that list, namely that they are countries in which Donald has business interests! Isn’t that special? Oh, and one more thing. People who already immigrated to the US legally are caught up in the web. Continue reading

Advertisements

Guns: Bullet Points

Guns, guns, guns. So much going on. I thought I’d put down, in concise terms, how I feel about guns since a lot of people seem to jump to some rather inaccurate conclusions. What more appropriate way than the use of bullet points?

  • I believe owning a gun makes one less safe, not more safe. This isn’t just a hunch, it’s backed by plenty of evidence.
  • The US would be a better country if guns were:
    • More scarce
    • Harder to get (waiting periods, universal background checks, etc.)
  • I believe no one (outside of military or law enforcement) has a legitimate need for high-capacity assault-style weapons like the AR-15.
  • The epidemic of gun violence in the US is a complex problem requiring complex solutions. There is no simple fix, no one law that will change everything.
  • No, we cannot eliminate all gun violence and that isn’t the goal. We can and should drastically reduce it.
  • Gun control isn’t binary, it’s not all or nothing. So one can advocate for gun control without wanting wholesale confiscation of guns.
  • “Gun control doesn’t work in Chicago you stupid idiot moron leftie!” — Chicago doesn’t have walls, it has open borders. Indiana is right next door and it’s very easy to get a gun there. There are hundreds of millions of guns in the US, there is only so much local regulations can achieve.
  • I do not think the “No Fly List” in its current form is the way to prevent terrorists from getting guns.
  • While I’m not a fan of guns (clearly) I also don’t believe that black people should be killed by police for having one.
  • The NRA is akin to a terrorist organization at this point. It makes meaningless statements like “No guns for terrorists, period.” while impeding any real attempt at reforming gun laws. They intimidate through fear, both for politicians (fear the NRA will support opponents) and regular people (fear that the government is going to take all their guns away, and fear that if you don’t have a gun you’ll fall victim to horrific acts of violence).

This is far from exhaustive. I’ve written plenty about guns, so if you want to know more, check out the “gun” tag.

Cleaning House

Sweeping broomIf you’re like me, you can hardly keep up with the deluge of reports of apparent police misconduct, often with fatal results.

The biggest case in the news right now is of course, that of Freddie Gray. Just today, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against 6 officers involved in the Gray incident. Those charges included false imprisonment, because her investigation concluded there was no justification for the arrest in the first place!

Recently a judge in Cook County, Illinois dismissed a case against a Chicago police detective who–while off duty–fired into a small crowd of people and killed an innocent bystander, Rekia Boyd. Of course the cop claimed that someone in the crowd had a gun…but no gun or evidence of a gun was found, and the intended target (who was injured but not killed) had a cell phone in his hand. Interestingly, the judge who tossed the case implied that the officer should have been charged with murder, a more serious crime than that he had been charged with.

Not long ago, most of us probably saw the incredibly disturbing video of North Charleston police officer Slager shooting a fleeing, unarmed Walter Scott in the back several times, then planting his taser next to the body.

I think what we are seeing is the inevitable result of the complete abdication of responsibility of police to police their own. I still believe many if not most police officers are basically good people. But as John Stuart Mill wrote, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” We have seen that police will not keep their own house in order. In fact, those who try may find themselves punished instead of the bad guys! That leaves us–the rest of Society–no choice but to clean their house for them. The time has more than come.

The Rat

clipart ratThe police and policing have been in the news a lot in the last few months, starting with the events in Ferguson, MO. I wrote about the police a couple times. And I’ve heard a lot of discussion, and one question has come up a few times. Why don’t the good cops do something about the bad cops? The answer: they’re afraid to. Whistle blowers are called “rats” and “snitches”. They can’t find partners to ride with them and get shitty assignments. Worst of all, they don’t get backup in dangerous situations, meaning they are literally endangering their own lives by coming forward. A case in which all this allegedly happened is that of former Baltimore Police Detective Joseph Crystal.

By all reports, Crystal was a rising star in the BPD, until he saw something he couldn’t keep quiet about: the beating of a drug suspect by a fellow officer.

In fleeing from police, the suspect broke into the home of a woman who was (presumably unknown to him) the girlfriend of a BPD officer (Anthony Williams). The man was arrested and taken away in a police van. But then Officer Williams–who was not involved in the arrest–showed up. The sergeant on scene had the van come back and the suspect brought back into the house where Williams beat him:

“I can hear the assault,” Crystal said. “I hear the banging. I hear the guy hit the floor.

“A couple minutes later, they bring the guy out,” Crystal added. “His shirt’s ripped. He’s having trouble standing. Later on, I found out his ankle was broken. It was obvious not just to any cop but to any person that saw it what had just transpired.”

The battered Green was led back into the police van and driven away.

After consulting with his parents, who were both former NYPD officers, he decided he had to report the incident. His sergeant advised against it: “If you snitch, your career is done. Nobody’s going to work with you.”

He did it anyway. His sergeant was right. What followed were all the things I mentioned above, in addition to having a dead rat placed on his car at his home and his security clearance revoked.

For obvious reasons, Crystal felt he had to quit his job, and he has been unable to find another law enforcement job in the area. He is currently suing the department, the chief and his former supervisor.

Read all the depressing details here.

This is why the good cops don’t do something about the bad cops. The Blue Wall is insurmountable. This is why the police are not capable of policing themselves.

Uniform Code

Last night, another black male teenager was killed by police in the St. Louis area. This time, according to police, the teen was armed and fired at the officer. If that’s true–and once again, I believe all police shootings should be independently investigated–I can’t find fault with the officer for shooting. The fact that he fired 17 times tells me he’s probably not a good shot and should spend more time at the range, but that’s a different matter.

A fact in this story that will likely get overlooked–I may not have noticed it, if not for the tweet below–is that the officer was wearing his uniform while off duty and working private security gig.

And that’s a problem. Not that he was working another security job; I know cops don’t often make a lot of money (except at the Port Authority apparently, but that’s a topic for a separate post) and it’s fine putting their skills to work in another job. The problem is they do this in uniform. And it’s common.

In most cases, cops retain their police powers off duty, which is fine. But when you see an officer in uniform, how are you to know if they’re working in their official capacity or as hired help? The distinction is important! Are they enforcing the laws, or obeying the wishes of a private employer? As I stated in a previous post, you’re generally compelled to obey a police officer. Are his orders based on the law or the whims of his boss?

This is just another one of many things that should be fixed with policing in America.

On Police

I composed this entry weeks ago, and then sat on it instead of posting it. But I can’t really sit on this issue any more, now I that I see the story of John Crawford, a black man fatally shot by police in Ohio. The man was carrying a gun in a Walmart store, and police responded to a 911 call. The gun turned out to be toy, but it was apparently realistic looking from a distance. However, there are two considerations here: 1) Ohio is an open-carry state, meaning it was not against the law to carry a real gun in the store. In fact white people do it without getting shot. 2) It appears from the video that Mr. Crawford dropped the toy gun before being shot by police.

A grand jury failed to indict, and the city released a statement that “The officers followed accepted law enforcement training protocol in their response to the report of an active threat in the Wal-Mart store.” Apparently officers are trained to shoot black men after they drop their gun on the floor.

More information here and here. The video is…disturbing.

It sure seems like it.
—–
I’ve been stewing on this for while, composing parts of it in my head, and then forgetting most of them. Then as I was finishing up with work today, I saw the following tweet, and accompanying link from @redeyechicago:

And I’m sure most of the developed world heard about what happened in Ferguson, MO no long ago. And lo and behold, this tweet also popped into my timeline:

So it’s time to talk about police, I think. Police, or cops, are a necessary part of society, unless we want to live in anarchy. I want to be clear that I am not anti-cop. I appreciate the job is dangerous, challenging and often thankless. I appreciate that men and women are willing to put their lives on the line in service to society, often for sadly low pay (you don’t go into policing to get rich). And many cops are good people. I don’t say “most”, because I don’t know that to be true. I don’t that it isn’t true either; I lack facts either way. But it’s no secret that the power that comes with a badge and a gun can attract the wrong kind of people into the line of work. People like the guy in the first tweet above, if the allegations are true. And like many of the people I saw in action in Ferguson, MO.

And the whole thing in Ferguson started with a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed 18 year old boy. All the facts in that case have still not been revealed, so I am not going to try to pass judgement but it definitely doesn’t smell right to me. But Mike Brown is hardly the only person to be shot to death by police. In the US alone, more than 400 civilians were killed by police in 2011. In Australia there were 6, in Germany there were 6 and in England and Wales there were 2 for the same year.
Continue reading

More Guns

This is something that I just now stumbled on, many months after the fact. But it’s still highly relevant, particularly to my recent post about guns. If you didn’t read it (it’s long, I know) my point was in countering the preposterous NRA claim that having more guns would deter violence.

Anyway, this is a post from a friend of mine relating to the mass shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater in the summer of last year. He is a gun owner, a Marine veteran and a police officer. He addresses a slightly different angle than I do, namely how more guns would (or would not) have helped. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I’ll post a couple snippets below.

My Perspective on the Colorado Shooting

If an officer, or two, had been in the theater when this happened they would have been in no better situation then those there to watch the movie.  Someone told me that they would have guns and could have shot back.  Really?  Once the tear gas and shots rang out PANIC also began.  As a police officer, I can tell you that just because I have a gun does not mean I am super man.  Hundreds of people began to run, jump, drop to the floor.  Even the best trained officer would find this situation a nightmare to find out who is doing the shooting and then to even try to take a shot without hitting one of the hundreds of people running.

The other what if … is one concerning a law abiding citizen carrying concealed in the theater….  Again you still have mass panic, disorientation, darkness, lack of formal training and the big one in my mind how do you shoot at a single person without hitting the hundreds that are trying to flee.  My biggest issue with this is what would keep the fleeing people from thinking you were just another gunman in the dark trying to do the same thing the suspect was doing, kill people.

Indeed! If some good Samaritan had been carrying in the theater, he or she may well have been shot (as was such a would-be helper in one of the examples in my Guns post) or have accidentally hit bystanders, as trained police officers did in NYC last year outside the Empire State Building(also an example in my post). And if you do have good & bad guys packing heat, how do you tell them apart in a hyper tense, deadly (not to mention dark) situation?

I’m sharing this because I think it’s an interesting perspective from someone knowledgeable on guns, security and policing. Check it out.